The day began with everyone eagerly awaiting Tiger Woods’ return to professional golf. Tiger’s biggest critics, cynics and fans all had a reason to be excited. Let’s face it – Tiger Woods single handily put the game of golf on the map back in his heyday.
The tournament was filled with people of all ages. From little children clamoring to get his autograph, all the way to elderly adults idolizing his every move and swing. Golf felt more alive today. Woods, who is known for his stoic/stern demeanor, was in a rather jovial mood throughout his round. Waves and smiles to the crowd – even after making bogey, which is not something I am accustomed to seeing from him. And while Tiger didn’t necessarily light the world on fire during his even-par 72 round, finishing the day tied for 84th, he did show some flashes of greatness that we have become accustomed to seeing. His shot on the par-three 16th missed a hole in one by about eight inches, but unfortunately, none of Tiger’s other statistics in the round ended up being all that great. He was 8-of-14 on fairways hit, 12-of-18 with greens in regulation and he failed to make a putt longer than 4’2,” but the most encouraging thing was Woods’ finally looked healthy. Rust will get worn off as he puts in more competitive rounds, and Tiger showed today he can still compete on the tour if healthy.
The Farmers Insurance Open plays on two courses (North and South). It is widely known that the South Course is, or at least was, the more difficult course of the two. The North Course has had a bit of a makeover and today proved to be every bit as challenging, if not more challenging than the South. Tony Finau (our pick to win the tournament) shot an outstanding seven-under 65. It is sometimes difficult to gauge in split course tournaments what the leaderboard is until all groups have played the same courses but to put Finau’s round in perspective, the next lowest score from the North was a four-under 68. Back in September of 2017, Finau did an interview with ESPN describing how he got into golf and had many noteworthy quotes regarding Tiger Woods. Finau called himself “a product of Tiger Woods” and explained how his first golf tournament he ever watched was the 1997 Masters, where Woods ran away with the tournament. “To see him do what he did, I could relate to him, obviously how exciting he was, but someone with a bit of color playing this game. That’s when I was like, maybe I can play golf. If he can do it, so can I.”
Finau has always been an underachiever in my opinion. Talent and stature as large as anyone in the world of golf but a lack of killer instinct when it has mattered most. A top-10 talent who has taken the most roundabout path with not only how he started playing golf but also his journey through the ranks the past handful of years. Finau is officially up to 44th in the world and can finally stop worrying about qualifying for different events because his ranking is not high enough.
Too many majors and other sought after tournaments have been missed over the years, and at 28-years-old, he still has a lot of time to propel himself into a household name and potential top-10 player. Finau, who is full of crazy stories, might have another one to tell soon about how his idol Tiger Woods’ comeback tournament turned into his big breakthrough win. Finau’s game deserves to be played on the biggest platform and perhaps one day he will get the opportunity to show it against Woods – maybe even on the grandest of stages.